CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Another automotive industry announcement is expected in West Virginia today.
State Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher gave a big hint about such an event on Tuesday while participating in Toyota’s revelation of a $115.3 million investment to produce the company’s first American-made hybrid transaxles at the company’s plant in Putnam County.
Speaking afterward to reporters, Thrasher called this “Automotive Week” and said another announcement would occur today.
Signs point to the Parkersburg area for the next big announcement.
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel is reporting that a press conference is scheduled for 7 p.m. today “to make an announcement on the former Coldwater Creek facility,” which is the 962,000-square-foot plant for the former catalog retailer near Mineral Wells, Wood County.
About midmorning today, the Commerce Department sent out an advisory saying Thrasher will be taking part in the announcement about the Coldwater Creek property during a press conference at Parkersburg Country Club, 4910 1st Avenue, Vienna, this evening.
State Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher would not say if Coldwater Creek & Hino announcements are connected, but did say he is "hopeful."
— Carrie Hodousek (@CarrieHodousek) September 27, 2017
At the same time, Hino Trucks USA announced on its Facebook page that it’s planning a live feed of a press conference. “We’re growing. Join us live,” the company says.
Hino has a truck manufacturing facility in Williamstown, Wood County.
“It’s going to be a big deal,” Wood County Commissioner Bob Tebay told the News and Sentinel newspaper.
At Toyota on Tuesday, Thrasher specified that an automotive announcement would be made in West Virginia today.
“As a matter of fact we’re calling this automotive week because of the significant announcements that are being made,” Thrasher told reporters. “I never give the story away before it’s time to give it away, but stay tuned because of the news we’re going to hear in the very near future, as in tomorrow.”
He continued, “I will tell you that West Virginia really has a very broad automotive presence, and it’s about to take a substantial increase.”
The Toyota announcement on Tuesday doesn’t necessarily mean the addition of more jobs, but company leaders described the move as a vote of confidence and assurance that the company will continue to keep up with buyers’ preferences and the latest technology.
“Hybrid technology is essential to the future of Toyota,” said Leah Curry, the president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia. “Producing these new transaxles in West Virginia solidifies our plant’s role in producing next generation engines and transmissions that will drive the future of mobility.”
Including this announcement, Toyota has invested more than $1.4 billion at the company’s plant in Buffalo since its establishment there in 1996.
The Hino Truck plant in Williamstown began production in November 2007 with 72 employees producing between two and 10 trucks a day.
In 2015, Hino announced plans to invest up to $8 million to expand its truck assembly facility to create up to 50 more permanent jobs at the plant. By then, the plant already employed about 225 workers.
Thrasher on Tuesday said West Virginia’s economic developers have placed proper emphasis on developing the automotive industry, including dozens of trips to Japan over the years.
West Virginia is home to more than 15 automotive assembly and component producers, according to the state Department of Commerce.
“West Virginia really enjoys a very robust automotive community that’s about to take a substantial increase in terms of the activity of automobile and truck manufacturing within West Virginia. One key reason is because of our commitment to that industry and those Japanese companies,” Thrasher said.
“The second thing I have to say is, we have a very gifted, talented, committed work force, which is always at the forefront of those Japanese manufacturer’s concerns, and I think we do it as well or better than anybody.”